Ritual of Compassion for Rice Plants in the Fields

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Miseh ritual for paddy plants.
Miseh ritual for paddy plants (Photo: Mayumi Raylita)
  • SUBAK irrigation cooperative has lived from thousand years ago and stays to survive and being praciticed until these days.
  • Aside from technical matters, this Hinduism-based organization also applies a number of rituals in the life cycle of the rice plants.

Historically, subak or Balinese irrigation cooeprative has been established around a thousand years ago. Uniquely, this organization remains active until these days and well supported by the Balinese farming community.

Basically, subak has social aspects that regulate the relationships between members related to rights and obligations, regulation of cropping patterns, technical maintenance of irrigation channels from upstream to downstream or end users with their management and ritual activities organized throughout the year,

In the course of its long history, subak is able to adapt to the times so that it stays relevant and greatly supported by the farming communities. In terms of socio-religious, subak members are united through the subak temple or Bedugul Temple which is the center of subak social and religious activities. The institution led by the Pekaseh and its apparatus also has a subak hall where holding organizational activities.

Palm manuscript of Shri Tattwa or Dharmaning Pemaculan by Mpu Kuturan can be said as a guidebook for subak members. Apart from the technical problems as mentioned above, there are also Hindu ritual matters for rice plants from planting to storing harvests in the barn.

For farmer who starts planting rice must hold a ritual ceremony with good timing. By and large, farmer who is ready will propose to the subak organization for holding the initiation ritual where the costs of the ceremony are borne by the subak. Thus, this moment is the beginning of the planting period in the subak area as a whole.

Then, there is the ngulapin ritual held by each farmer after planting rice. Literally, this ceremony is intended to pray for the healing of rice plants after transplanting the seedlings and being moved from the nursery area and then planted in the cleared area of ​​the rice fields.

If there is a pest or disease attack, subak members will hold ngelepeh ceremony. This activity is intended as a complaint to the ‘authorities’ or ‘herdsmen’ of the pests and diseases in order to pull their subordinates from the rice fields. In return, farmers will offer certain offerings according to the case at hand. In addition to the rituals, farmers also take action to eradicate pests technically in accordance with modern agricultural management and the type of pest or disease.

However, there is a taboo thing when handling mice pests, where farmers should never curse or grumble against pests like mice. According to local beliefs, if it is done precisely the mouse attack will become more intensive. Aside from the rituals, mice have a fine nickname as the Jero Ketut like the name of human.

At the age of about two months, rice plants are given a miseh ceremony. Physically, at this age rice plants are considered to have been ‘pregnant’ where the offerings contain various sour fruits. Like humans, this is intended to strengthen the ‘pregnancy of the rice.’

When the grains had begun to turn yellow, a mabiyukukung ceremony is held. Other than offerings, farmers also make sundung or a basket made of old green coconut leaf to contain some offerings other than in the bamboo platform in the upstream of the rice fields.

After the harvest, armers will take a handful of rice complete with stalks tied with bamboo rope to be made into Dewa Nini as a symbolic of Dewi Sri to be celebrated in the rice storage barn. Well, until this stage the ritual given to the rice ends.


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